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Why Is Salvation Described as a Plan?

If you are part of an evangelical church, you have likely heard people describe something called ‘the plan of salvation’. And even if you are not, you may well have heard the term. But what is this plan of salvation and why is it called that?

Define Salvation

As Christians, we often use the word ‘salvation’ to refer to something that happened to us in the past. A point in time when you accepted Jesus as your savior. But salvation is much more than that. The Greek word translated as salvation refers to deliverance or rescue, being taken from a place of danger into a place of safety. The word could be used for many situations we find ourselves rescued from. It might be riding out a hurricane, finding yourself caught up in a riot, or lost in the mountains. Salvation is being delivered from that danger.

But in the Scripture, salvation is used more specifically for deliverance from the wrath of God and the destruction awaiting those who are apart from him. Salvation is not just something that has happened to us. It is also very much a part of our present reality and our coming hope.

Plan of Salvation

A plan involves a series of steps. Steps that are taken in a specific order. At the end of the plan is the accomplishment of a goal. A plan is essentially how you go about accomplishing something. In the plan of salvation, the goal at the end is salvation. And the plan is what needs to be accomplished to reach that goal.

Oftentimes our frame of reference for the plan of salvation is the human perspective. But there is another perspective this plan can, and should, be viewed from. And that is God’s. What is he doing and what is his goal?

God’s Plan in Salvation

God’s plan of salvation was put into place before creation. And, I believe, it was an integral part of his purpose in creation. Humanities fall in the garden did not necessitate a change in his plan. His plan all along was that Jesus would be the means of our coming to him.

In Ephesians 1:3-14 Paul identifies the spiritual blessings that we have been given in Christ. In verse 11 he says, “In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will.” Leaving aside the debate about election and predestination, Paul tells us here that God has a plan. And he is working out that plan in the lives of his people.

There are other passages in the Scripture that allude to this plan. In 1 Peter 1:20, we find that Christ was chosen as our redeemer before creation. In Ephesians 1:4, Paul tells us that as believers we were chosen before the creation of the world. And in Ephesians 1:9-10, he refers to the mystery of God’s will. A mystery that would be put into effect when the times had reached their fulfillment, or, when the time was right. All three of these passages allude to steps in a plan. A plan that God is working out.

In God’s Timing

But nowhere is this plan made clearer than in Galatians 4:4-5. Here Paul says that “when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship.” When “the set time had fully come” refers to all the prerequisites in the plan having been met.  When that was done God revealed the next step, the mystery of his will referred to in Ephesians 1:9-10. And that step was the coming of Christ as our redeemer. This was not the last step in God’s plan of salvation, but it was a critical one.

Several passages speak of our salvation in the future tense, including 1 Peter 1:4-5. Here Peter, speaking of our inheritance that can never perish, spoil, or fade, says, “This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time.” The final step in God’s plan of salvation is to bring us into our inheritance. He has a future prepared for us that will complete his plan of salvation.

Human Role in Salvation

While God’s plan of salvation is behind all he is doing in the creation, there is a human aspect to this plan as well. And, most commonly, when we refer to the plan of salvation, that is what we are talking about. This plan is formulated in several different forms: The Four Spiritual Laws, the Roman Road, etc. But they all include the same basic steps.

  • Acknowledge your need for salvation
  • Repent of your sin
  • Believe in the Lord Jesus
  • Live as a disciple of Jesus

The first step for me is to acknowledge my need, to recognize that I am a fallen sinner in need of a savior. This is what the Philippian jail did when he cried out “What must I do to be saved” (Acts 16:30)?

Then I need to turn away from my old way of life and repent of my sin. And then trust my life into the hands of Jesus, the one who died for me. This is what Paul is telling the jailer when he responds with “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved” (Acts 16:31).

All too often we like to only consider the first three of those four steps in the plan. But the fourth is also especially important. In Matthew 16:24-25 we find Jesus saying, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it.” Taking up our cross and following Jesus is a necessary step in saving our lives.

The Plan of Salvation

There are two distinct perspectives on the plan of salvation. From God’s perspective, he has been, and continues to, work out his plan in creation to produce a redeemed people. His plan began before creation and will continue to the end of this creation. The human perspective deals with bringing me into alignment with God’s plan for salvation. Will I be a part of God’s purpose in creation? Or will I reject it?

God’s plan for salvation will be accomplished. He will produce his redeemed people. The question each of us needs to ask ourselves is “Will I take part in God’s plan of salvation?”

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